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OUTFIT: PUTTING ON A PERFORMANCE INTERVIEW BY JAMES LOWTHER

 
Outfit, are a five piece from Liverpool consisting of Nick, Andy, Dave, Chris and Thomas. They are set to release their debut album, ‘Performance’, this month, and I caught up with guitarist Nick to discuss the new record and the hype surrounding it, how it evolved and what Outfit are all about.

JAMES: Hello there, it’s James.

NICK: Hiya, mate, it’s Nick from Outfit.

JAMES: This is actually my first interview! so you’ll have to go easy on me.

NICK: Ah no worries!

JAMES: So your debut album comes out soon, right?

NICK: Um, it’s out – released Monday 12th August.

JAMES: Nice one. And how long were you working on the album for?

NICK: Um, well it’s interesting because the album’s out on Andy’s birthday. 12th August. Now, the last 12th August 2012, we moved back to Liverpool from London to start work on the album. The 12th August before that, we moved from Liverpool to London to work on the band. This is the third kind of heavy birthday for Andy in a row. It’s quite a nice trend in a way. And it was completely by accident that the album was slated for this date anyway. We were gonna release it earlier, but we were sort of doing more things on it. Then the person who booked the date for the album release didn’t even know it was my brother’s birthday.

JAMES: And am I right in saying that the album was all self produced as well?

NICK: Yeah, our drummer Dave was a professional sound engineer and also a producer and our musical relationship with Dave before the band in it’s current form, was often based on the fact that when Dave started living with some of us we were like, ‘Oh wow, someone that actually knows how to produce things!’ So he started working on everyone’s material. So, him and Andy especially worked up this sort of relationship where they’ve got a good shared language about that stuff. And then we went back to Liverpool because we thought it would be easier to make a studio here because it’s cheaper to live and so on.

JAMES: Ah, and the album was all recorded in an abandoned flat in Liverpool wasn’t it?

NICK: The block of flats is actually opposite this house where we used to live, where we started the band. And so when we were living there, at the time that space was being used to house asylum seekers with young children - just that demographic - and when that finished, the owner had been trying to get students to live there for a while but not much was doing. He was the same landlord as the last place, he was a great guy and he’s been really helpful to us, so when we were thinking of coming back to Liverpool to do this, we emailed him saying ‘Have you got anywhere we could maybe...(laughing) record an album?‘ and he was like, ‘Well, this place is basically empty, there’s a communal dining room on the first floor, and you could live above that’. So we set up in there. There’s been the odd person occasionally living here but it’s pretty much empty.

JAMES: I’ve been having a browse around on the internet and you’ve been called ‘Liverpool’s Hottest New Band’

NICK:(Laughing) Yeah, haha.

JAMES: Have comments like that ever been a bit overwhelming for you guys?

NICK: Um...(laughing) with things like that it’s sort of an easy tagline for people to talk about whatever they’re talking about at the time, in a way. So, we try not to take that too seriously. It’s great, you know, but there’s loads of amazing bands that come from Liverpool, and you know I wouldn’t want to pretend we’re predominant over those kinds of guys. Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff here. It’s nice, you know.

JAMES: Yeah, for sure. And how does it feel having stuff featured on like Pitchfork?

NICK: I suppose it’s nice because it feels real, you know? I feel like that whenever I see something where I would have seen that anyway, even if I wasn’t checking the internet for what people are saying about myself (laughing). When you sort of bump into things in places that you go on anyway, you think that’s nice. With anything, it’s good to see that anyone’s listening. I’ve been in a lot of bands where I’ve thought that we’re doing really good things, when really we’ve just been releasing things into the void for nobody to really care about. So in a way it’s just nice to see that you’re making something that people are listening to. Whatever happens, there are enough people interested that this will get listened to. That’s all you can really ask, to have the opportunity to be judged on your own merits. I think the only thing we would have been really scared of would be releasing the album and no-one even knowing that it was out.

JAMES: It’s been pretty well hyped!

NICK:(Laughing) Ooh, I don’t like that word!

JAMES: And, with coming from Liverpool, were you influenced by the sort of huge talent that’s come from there?

NICK: I don’t think we’ve been enormously influenced by bigger bands. The first gigs that really got me excited weren’t gigs of big bands, I mean like big O2 Academy shows or anything, the first ones I saw in Liverpool were on like the underground scene when I was maybe 19,  sort of bands like The Lays and APAtT, a couple of really quite experimental bands. They were sort of really inspirational for the idea of doing things your own way, you know they were very musical bands, but they always seemed to be quite stubborn and I think that kind of stubbornness and desire to do things for yourself is something that we got from specifically modern day Liverpool.

JAMES: And were there any older influences? Because you can definitely feel a sort of 80’s vibe on a few of the songs.

NICK: Yeah, I mean ‘The Killing Moon’ by Echo and the Bunnymen, I think a way is a very Outfit-y song, some of the kind of Liverpool music that we’d identify with. And I mean The Beatles, their sort of experimentation and pop sensibility. I mean, they’re a great band. I think I spent all of my teens saying, ‘Oh, The Beatles are shit’, because you grow up in Liverpool and you can’t really avoid it. I mean, I sung ‘When I’m 64’ in primary school, like a hymn, singing that in assemblies. So it’s not what you want then when you’re 19 and you want to feel like you’re doing something edgy.

JAMES: Yeah, that’s how I feel about like, Oasis.

NICK: Ah, yeah, yeah, you’re from Manchester? Again, there are absolutely loads of amazing bands from Manchester, a lot now as well. Like Everything Everything, Dutch Uncles, Egyptian Hip-Hop, people like that, you know? There’s quite a good scene going on in Manchester.

JAMES: Well, I guess considering you’ve just brought out a new album, you’ve had a bit of a hectic summer?

NICK: Well... No, actually, quite the opposite. We sort of signed off on everything on the album in like June some time, did a few live shows then. Then we all went our separate ways for a while and had some life-time. You know, everything we do has been sort of quite tiring for the band for a long time, moving to London and then moving back. We’ve had to sort of give up a lot of control over our lives. So, like Tom’s girlfriend lives in London, so he went back down to London and lived there for a while, Andy’s girlfriend lives in New York, so he went over and did that. Dave did some work in Brazil, and he’s from Switzerland so he went home for a bit. So everyone had a little bit of time to themselves, really, doing things that weren’t anything to do with the band really.

JAMES: I guess you’ll be doing some shows to tie in with the release of the album though, right?

NICK: Yeah, we’re doing a show on Saturday at the Kazimier which is this sort of brilliant independent music venue in Liverpool. We played that last year on the 12th August in fact!  (laughing) Again, it’s kind of a nice return. We’re looking forward to that, we’re playing a few things off the album that we haven’t actually played live yet. There’s going to be some nice moments. We’ve just sort of learnt ‘Elephant Days’, for live, it’s got a sort of very ‘live’ feel to it in like the middle section so that’s gonna be a lot of fun to do.

JAMES: And is it quite easy transferring your sound into a live show? I mean, there are a lot of very complex sounds going on in the album.

NICK: Yeah, we’ve worked it out a lot better now and I think in a way because we’ve been working on the album so much, it’s very quick to come and do something because you’re not working on it anymore. When we did things for the EP, we’d already done a lot of that stuff live quite a lot by the time we recorded it, so it had really been all worked out in the practice room. Whereas, with the album, everything’s kind of been worked on and then recorded separately and the finished article’s kind of happened by the time we’re thinking about doing it live, for the most part. A few we’ve had around for a bit longer than that. Now it is a lot easier.

JAMES: And your latest single is...

NICK: ‘House on Fire’

JAMES: Oh yeah, I actually heard that on the radio last week, on Radio 1.

NICK: It’s been going really well, it’s really pleasing that like, we did a radio session for Mark Riley, that was great, but we got playlisted the other week, which means that they play that tune loads now for the rest of the month.

JAMES: It’s a really catchy song, I can see why they picked it.

NICK: Yeah, it’s actually one of my favourites to play live.

JAMES: And your single before that was ‘I Want What’s Best’, and that’s got a really cool, interesting video. I was just wondering if there was anything you could tell me about that?

NICK: Yeah, I love that one. It was Andy’s idea to do something with one of those people, and he was scouring the internet, like on Facebook and Twitter asking everyone in Liverpool, ‘Where can I find that bronze cowboy? He hasn’t been around for a while’. So he eventually hunted him down and when they got talking, there was a lot more to him than just the fact that it looked really cool and if we did a video of him getting ready and doing his thing it would be nice. And that was why that documentary edge started to creep in a little bit because he said so many things that were really relevant to what we’re about and what the album’s about. When he says, ‘I really work on my act because that act is me’. The whole idea of how you put yourself out in the world and how that feeds into your self image and values, that seemed to be so on the money.

JAMES: I mean, I guess that’s what your albums all about. I mean, it’s called ‘Performance’, so is it about like putting on a bit of an act or a show?

NICK: In anything in your life you’re sort of performing to some degree. Whether that’s to your own self image or how you feel other people see you. You know, that expression, ‘playing to the gallery’? When someone’s showing off a bit, you do put on a performance most of the time, and not necessarily really an extrovert one. I think there are a lot of, even in the most regular person, there a few different personalities hiding out that you pull out in different situations. So it’s sort of about balancing that and a search for, not a real you, but more of a sense of peace with who you are or all the different versions of who you are. A way of living in the world where you’re going to be happy. I think the search for happiness is the main theme in a sense, but we look at it through that prism of identity.

JAMES: And in a lot of your songs, I mean they are incredibly catchy, but they’ve also got that sort melancholic edge to them. Was that intentionally brought out or did it just sort of evolve naturally as you were playing together?

NICK: I think that’s always been in our music. I think the nice thing about ‘melancholy’ is that it’s quite a complex emotion. It’s not being depressed, melancholic things are sad, but there’s a sort of yearning or reaching for something. I think, in a song like ‘The Great Outdoor’s’, Andy’s lyrics for that and the sort of feel of the song in general captures that feeling of being sad, but because you want more, there’s a sort of optimism to it. It’s forward looking still, you might be melancholic now because you want something better, and you believe that that’s possible.

JAMES: So, which of your tracks is your favourite to play live then? You’ve mentioned a few.

NICK: I think ‘Elephant Days‘is going to be a favourite for all of us. It’s nice to have a bit of a ‘rock-out‘moment in an Outfit song, it doesn’t happen often. And ‘Two Islands‘is always a lot of fun to play live, and plus it has the benefit of being quite an easy song to play as well.

JAMES: This is my last question now, but what’s next for you guys?

NICK: Well, we’re gonna do a few shows in September, and then hopefully play a fair bit October, November as well. Beyond that, I don’t really know. I’d like to do more European shows especially, that would be really nice. We haven’t toured very much really, so it would be nice to do more live things. At the same time, we’ve already had enough distance from recording the album that we’ve been talking a lot about what we want out of the next album. Because we’ve got equipment and a place to record anyways, I can feel our thoughts drifting to what we can do next. I think we’re in quite a nice place, from having this much time to develop your working processes. The second album should sound like an Outfit album, but we don’t want it to sound just like the first. I’d like to think that we’re that sort of band, that people will expect something different of us that will hopefully still sound, somehow, like an Outfit album.

JAMES: Thanks a lot, Nick! Anything else you want to mention?

NICK: Nah, I’d just bend your ear forever if I got the chance! Take care.

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Interview by James Lowther